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ECHO OF THE PLAINS is a short story featuring Eli Ryan, the son of Matt and Molly from THE WREN, and his search for an elusive stallion called Echo. But Cassie Callahan's stubborn protection of the horse just might steer him off course. Available from Amazon Kindle http://www.amazon.com/Echo-of-the-Pl...3330471&sr=1-1
Eli knew he should be on his way—time was wasting—but reluctance to leave Miss Callahan kept him rooted in place.
“Are you out here all alone?” he asked.
She nodded. “I like to ride.”
“Have you seen a horse running wild? He’s dirt-colored with a black mane, and his rump is a patch of white covered with dark brown spots—a stallion real full of himself.”
Miss Callahan hesitated and her gaze became serious. “I’ve seen wild horses from time to time. Why are you looking for him?”
Eli thought of Josie, lying in her bed back at the ranch, recovering from her wounds. Rather than talk about the near-death of his sister, Eli turned his mind to the horse.
“There’s a legend in these parts about him.”
Miss Callahan waited.
A chill ran down Eli’s spine. The horse was just a damn horse, he reminded himself, despite all the talk to turn the animal into something else—something spooky.
“The night he was born, two years back, a fierce storm moved in fast.”
“The night he was born,” she echoed. “You mean he belongs to you?”
“To my ma. She breeds horses and has a real knack for predicting their natures. She let my younger sister Josie birth him, she was twelve at the time. But it was dangerous as hell with the storm raging outside.” Eli rubbed his nose and glanced to the horizon, where blue sky merged with tan desert. It wasn’t often he was around a pretty girl—sisters and cousins didn’t count—he ought to watch his swearing.
“Josie pulled him from his mama as a bolt of lightning struck. It hit the mare—unfortunately there was no hope for her—and the colt bolted.”
Miss Callahan gasped. “But he was just born.”
“We would’ve tried to catch him, but we weren’t sure about Josie—the jolt knocked her out, too.”
“Was she all right?”
“Yeah, she got lucky. The rest of us had been standing further back. My pa and I went in search of the colt but never found him, never found his body either.” A shadow blanketed the land as clouds blocked the setting sun. “There’ve been accounts of him—ranch hands seein’ him—but he’s never been caught. We’ve all tried—my pa, me, my uncle Logan. My uncle Nathan and his oldest son, Lucas, got close once, and caught hell for it from Aunt Em.” Eli coughed. Pretty girls were a welcome novelty, but left a man a might nervous.
Miss Callahan’s questioning look forced his attention back to the conversation. “Lucas broke his arm,” he added.
Her gaze turned contemplative.
“My ma told us to leave the horse be, but Josie couldn’t do it. We call him Echo, short for Ecacusayet. It’s Comanche for lightning flash.”
“Your ma named him?”
“The story of Molly Hart’s return from the Comanche was often told in the Callahan household,” she said.
Eli decided he wouldn’t mention that fact to his folks—his pa was fairly protective of the past that brought his wife to him, and didn’t believe in sharing it with others outside the family.
“Why do you need to catch him?” Her voice held a slight edge.
“For Josie. I’m bringin’ him in for her.”
“He’s been free for so long; wouldn’t you say it’s time to leave him be?”
“Recently he was shot, or so we think.” Eli didn’t miss the stiffening of Miss Callahan’s back. Slowly, he added,
“There’s some who say I did it.”
A look of horror crossed her face and thoughts of courting her fled. He should keep his damn mouth shut, but he was raised to talk straight. Some habits died hard.
“Did you?” she whispered.
The sky blazed a final orange to the west as the day dwindled to night.
“No.” Eli set his mouth in a grim line. “Jeb Hardy has a big mouth. It’s probably rustlers. I mean to make certain Echo’s all right.”